The Delaware Christian volleyball team rode fast starts in each set to a 25-21, 25-16, 25-11 victory over fifth-seeded Grove City Christian in a Division IV district semifinal Thursday night in Westerville.
Brianna Blackburn had 29 assists, six digs and five aces to lead DCS to its 15th straight victory and a third straight district final appearance.
“We go how Brianna goes,” DCS coach Jackie Boggs said. “She sets her best balls in the scramble balls. She can tell where she has to put the ball … that was fun to watch.”
DCS opened the first set 11-1 thanks to a pair of kills by freshman Lyssi Snouffer and two aces by Blackburn. GCCS (15-10) rallied for six out of seven points to close the gap to 24-21.
“It’s really hard to play with the lead against good teams because you know they’re going to get back into it,” Boggs said.
DCS scored the first six points of the second set and used a 12-2 rally to take a 20-9 lead. Abbey Evans had a couple of kills and Anna Fuller and Sarah Rosato each had an ace to lead the rally.
GCCS scored seven of the next nine points helped out by a block and a kill by Calista Manns and an Ashley Stoll ace.
DCS scored four of the last five, finished off by an ace by Mary Kerins, to close out the set.
DCS started 16-5 to cruise in the third set, led by four kills and an ace by Fuller.
“I thought Game 3 was our best game, obviously – and it wasn’t (GCCS) making mistakes – it was us,” Boggs said.
Snouffer led with 10 kills and had 10 digs, Evans finished with 12 digs to go with 10 kills and Fuller added six kills, nine digs and a pair of aces.
It would be easy to assume that DCS would see a drop off in wins this year after losing key offensive players Erin McCullough and Liz Sullivan off of last year’s squad that finished 21-4.
But, Boggs thought she had something special with this team. Snouffer has been the biggest offensive weapon so far to go with the senior leadership of Blackburn, Kerins and Evans.
“We’re really solid at every position,” Boggs said. “Lyssi is a factor. If you’re looking for somebody to terminate the ball – she can terminate the ball. And I knew Brianna was going to have her best season – a setter is so important and she really has had her best season.”
Rosato and Fuller, both juniors, have also had big years for DCS (23-2), which had set the school record for wins with Saturday’s second-round victory over Gahanna Christian.
So where did all of this come from?
“We’ve done a good job of not putting so much pressure on each other and it’s more light-hearted and fun,” Blackburn said. “But we still know how to keep it serious – it’s a good balance.”
Boggs says the leadership by her seniors over the summer is a direct result of the leadership by McCullough and Sullivan from last year.
“They call open gyms three times a week and I’m just sitting there. They’re running stuff,” Boggs said. “All of the seniors prior to them have shown them how to run a summer open gym and they just come in and they work.”
And this year’s group will pass it on to the next.
“I really think we’re going to be good for a while,” Boggs said. “Our middle school team went 17-1 this year and we got a ton of eighth-graders that are going to come up and a couple that could step on the court right now. It’s pretty exciting.”
Everything that happens now is breaking new ground. DCS has never won a district title in school history despite three chances in the last four years.
It’s the first time the school has been the top seed in the tournament after picking up its third straight MOCAL championship after going 12-0 in league play.
Manns finished with five kills and three digs, Emily Lambert had five assists, Katie Jacobs had five digs and Kortney Ferguson had five blocks to lead GCCS.
DCS will face second-seeded Shekinah Christian or third-seeded Fairfield Christian for the district championship Saturday at 1 p.m. at Westerville Central.
Also: Liberty def. Pickerington Central 27-25, 22-25, 22-25, 25-16, 15-13 (Division I district semifinal).
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.